In an age when geek chic has come to define mainstream pop culture, few writers and producers inspire more admiration and response than Joss Whedon. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Much Ado about Nothing, from Dr. Horrible’s Sing–Along Blog to The Avengers, the works of Whedon have been the focus of increasing academic attention. This collection of articles represents some of the best work covering a wide array of topics that clarify Whedon’s importance, including considerations of narrative and visual techniques, myth construction, symbolism, gender, heroism, and the business side of television. The editors argue that Whedon’s work is of both social and aesthetic significance; that he creates “canonical television.” He is a master of his artistic medium and has managed this success on broadcast networks rather than on cable.
I took a lot of media production units at university, and this book reads rather a lot like one of the texts we might have used then. Divided into different essays with titles like Hero’s Journey, Heroine’s Return?, Technology and Magic and All Those Apocalypses, you’re going to get some seriously in-depth study of the themes in Joss Whedon’s extensive body of work.
I was a huge Joss Whedon fan right up until he made some extremely baffling, male-privilege-ish comments about feminismism, and then he lost me. I’ve seen Buffy a hundred times over, went to the movies to see Serenity, and have enjoyed every episode of Firefly. I’m not as hugely into the genres he focuses on anymore, but I still have massive respect for his work (if not, so much, the man).
What’s most confusing is – as this text will show you – this is a man who did so much for the image of women in popular fiction. He created an idol for many a 90s teenager in Buffy and her friends. He made his female characters not only the heart of many of his productions, but also made them multifaceted and imperfect. And, no matter how frustrating it might have been at the time, he showed that young women can stand on their own two feet when he refused to give Buffy a romantic happy ever after.
I’m not going to go into long explanations about the writing in this book; it’s too detailed and specific for the casual reader (a good thing for its purpose, but not so much for my blog!). Let’s just say that you’re getting your money’s worth as far as analysis of Whedon’s shows go.
If you’ve made it through the past couple of decades without catching a single episode of Buffy or Angel or one of Whedon’s other hits, then there’s not going to be anything here for you. Basically, Reading Joss Whedon is for people who are already familiar with and fans of his work. This is a collection of studies on what makes this man such a phenomenon, and the influence he has had on popular culture.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.